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In The Beginning: Lynn Allison & The Corner Pocket
When The Corner Pocket opened in New Town, it was the first and only business here. “We were in the middle of a big field,” says owner Lynn Allison. “The SunTrust building was up, but it wasn’t finished, so there was nothing here except big fields and a muddy road—it wasn’t even paved when we moved in.” The parking lot was paved, but the road was not. “They didn’t have streetlights, so they had stadium lights at the end of the street, we’d have to go crank them at night,” Lynn says. That was August of 2003—now, everyone who enters New Town on Courthouse Street (now paved) passes The Corner Pocket’s green-and-gold sign. But how many people know The Corner Pocket’s story before it came to New Town?
Lynn, raised in Richmond, first moved to Williamsburg to double major in History and Psychology at William and Mary. “History is what I loved,” says Lynn, “and I did the Psychology because…for a good portion of high school and college I thought I wanted to go into dance therapy, and I knew that would be a graduate degree.” And she’d get that graduate degree, eventually, but first she lived and worked in Williamsburg for a bit longer. “I worked at the Golden Horseshoe, the Williamsburg Inn, and I bartended at the Trellis,” says Lynn. Ten years passed before she left to get her MBA from the University of Texas in Austin, where she scored one of the coolest gigs a grad student can hope for: a job at Austin City Limits.
While Lynn was there, performers like Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Merle Haggard, Fats Domino, Arlo Guthrie, and Chet Atkins would show up, rehearse for a week, and perform. Clearly, their coolness rubbed off on Lynn, because she came back to Richmond—MBA in hand—with an idea 35 years ahead of its time, at least on the East Coast. She wanted to open a microbrewery. “I had always loved beer and history, and I wanted to come to Richmond and renovate an old brewery there,” says Lynn. “But back then, nobody on the East Coast knew what I was talking about.” After a year of trying, she switched gears. “My uncle…had a company in Richmond that sold pool tables, [and] he knew that people were opening these pool rooms,” says Lynn. She was hesitant at first—she says she didn’t know anything about pool—but she thought the idea would work in Williamsburg, where she still had a townhouse. The plan was to get it up and running, then sell it after a few years.
The Corner Pocket turned 28 years old on June 12; the regulars followed when it moved from Williamsburg Crossing to New Town in 2003. “We’ve done lots of birthdays, wedding receptions, funeral receptions…we’ve done every kind of life passage there is,” says Lynn. “Baby showers, graduations, wakes…[We] experience lots of love and joy with the community.” Some people come for the food (the Blackened Salmon BLT is a particular recommendation), some for the pool tables, and some for the memories. “We have one couple whose first date was on Valentine’s Day, so now every Valentine’s Day they come back,” says Lynn, “and now they’re bringing their kids with them for their Valentine’s celebration.” The Corner Pocket has suffered from pandemic-related loss of business, as many others have, but Lynn hopes that it will continue as a community staple—a piece of New Town’s, and Williamsburg’s, history—long after she (eventually, finally) retires.
Brought to you by New Town Williamsburg--stay informed, stay safe, support local business. Kit Arbuckle reporting for the New Town Commercial Association (edition 20.10)
Engineering + Service = Us: Timothy Mills & TAM Consultants
These are not the engineers you’re thinking of. They are not the socially stunted academics of The Big Bang Theory; nor are they sarcastic, snide, and superior Dilbert from Scott Adams’ famed comic. These are the service-oriented, community-minded engineers of TAM Consultants. The firm’s founder, Timothy Mills, P.E., has been serving the Hampton Roads area for 30 years. “We’re licensed in North and South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania,” says Tim, “but the bulk of what we do is in southeast Virginia.”
What makes TAM Consultants different from the stereotypical engineer is inherent to their work: “We’re a fairly small company…so everybody who works for us has got to be clientfacing,” says Tim, “and be ready to sit in front of a client and explain complex, technical matters in a way that laypeople can understand.” And their clients range wildly, from private homeowners to city, county, state, and federal governments—fire stations, hospitals, and manufacturers. The scope of what they do for their clients also ranges wildly. “We provide engineering services, what we like to say, for the built environment,” says Tim. “We work on everything from helping somebody with a broken foundation to working on project teams with several contractors and owners developing four hundred or five hundred million-dollar hospital projects.”
TAM Consultants has (normally) operated from a second-floor office on the corner of New Town Avenue and Discovery Park Boulevard for 15 years; since the shutdown, Tim and his team have mostly been working from home. Because their work is so tied to the construction industry—an essential business—their work has changed only due to individual clients’ needs. Busch Gardens, for instance, has halted all their projects, but repair design for the James City County rec center goes on. “We’ve had a lot of meetings [with contractors] where we’re standing six feet apart, wearing a mask,” says Tim. Other current projects include the Cherry Point Marine Corps base in North Carolina, Dominion Energy in Richmond, various parking deck renovations, and Property Condition Assessments (the commercial property equivalent of a before-sale home inspection).
While Tim takes pride in the work he and his team does, and how they serve their clients and community, there is a second facet of TAM Consultants that he believes sets them apart. “I think TAM Consultants, as an organization, as a business, is good for our people,” says Tim, speaking of his staff. “It’s a good team. It’s a place for them to earn a living, support their family…my mission is really to support them and help them grow professionally, to allow them to thrive in life.” Tim speaks partly from experience—he moved to Williamsburg from his native New York to provide a better environment for his family back in 1990, and worked at three different consulting firms before opening his own in 2001. He continues to (literally) help build Hampton Roads into a place that attracts transplants from New York and California, while simultaneously investing in the community that makes it feel like home.
Brought to you by New Town Williamsburg—stay home, stay safe, support local business. Kit Arbuckle reporting for the New Town Commercial Association (edition 20.9)
Defined by Community
How does a Milwaukee native find her way to Williamsburg? As with many good stories, it involves a boy. “I was actually dating a guy who ended up getting a scholarship to William & Mary to get his MBA,” says Bridgit Kin-Charlton, who had just graduated from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. “I really had no ties, I’ve always been a free spirit, love travel and so on.” The relationship with the boy didn’t last, but Bridgit’s relationship with Williamsburg did.
Bridgit worked as Kingsmill Resort’s fitness director for seven years, which inspired and motivated her to open her own business. “When I worked there…there was such a high, gold-level of standard, five-star standard of our expectations,” says Bridgit. “I went through so much customer service training, management training, I feel like I was really groomed well there.” And two of her clients at the time were Mike Youngblood and Leslynn Twiddy, of Twiddy Realty—when she consulted them in 2005, they introduced her to a nascent New Town.
Bridgit’s business, Bdefined, is a boutique fitness center; it has no open gym space, and no group exercise classes. Instead, as Bridgit says, “It’s exclusively personal training—you’re coming in specifically to meet with your trainer…it’s very customized, very personalized.” And while this means Bridgit and her staff don’t need as much room as a more traditional gym, spending Bdefined’s first ten years in the SunTrust building proved challenging in other ways. “Coming from Milwaukee, it was very common to have a fitness center in a high-rise building,” says Bridgit, “but I don’t think that, at the time, it was quite common around here.” People were a little nervous to poke their head in, or thought that Bdefined was corporate wellness for SunTrust. Despite the somewhat off-putting location, Bridgit and Bdefined quickly found their niche: women’s health and Baby Boomers.
This is not to say that Bdefined only takes on female clients aged 50 to 75—Bridgit reports that their clients’ age range stretch between 8 and 97, and thirty to forty percent of her clients are male—but younger clients generally start with Bdefined because of a parent or grandparent. “When I built my business, and put together my business model, it really did center itself around who is in Williamsburg, and what does the community need,” says Bridgit. She saw a large community of retired folks who understood and valued the importance of exercise: “they love to golf, they love to play tennis, they love to walk, they love to swim, it’s always been a very active community,” she says. With her current space on Center Street, right across from Sullivan Square—gutted and redesigned to Bridgit’s specifications—Bridgit and her team continue to serve the Williamsburg community with virtual and outdoor training sessions. If you’ve ever passed by Sullivan Square and seen groups of two and three exercising, you’ve probably seen Bdefined’s mission at work.
Brought to you by New Town Williamsburg—stay home, stay safe, support local business. Kit Arbuckle reporting for the New Town Commercial Association (edition 20.8)